In a brand new episode of The Meaning of Myth, Anthony Murphy and Treacy O'Connor discuss the symbol of the hawk from Irish mythology, and how the myth of Fintan mac Bóchra inspired the novel The Cry of the Sebac.
The myth of Fintan mac Bóchra is one that pertains to the survival of wisdom and myth through all the ages and all of the disasters that happen to humans. It comes from the Lebor Gabála, the Book of Invasions, in which the whole history of Ireland is traced as far back as the Biblical flood.
Fintan comes to Ireland with two other men and fifty women, a group led by Cessair, granddaughter of Noah. Cessair was refused a place on the ark, but Noah advised her to sail to Ireland, where no one was living and therefore Ireland would not be subjected to the wrath of God.
However, the flood covers Ireland and Cessair and all the women, along with two of the men, are drowned. Fintan is the sole survivor. He survives by changing into a salmon, and then an eagle, and finally a hawk, before eventually resuming his own shape.
In the story The Hawk of Achill, he describes the whole history of the world, saying that he has lived for 5,500 years. He has seen all of the great ages of the world and is a seer of great knowledge and wisdom.
In The Settling of the Manor of Tara, he is consulted by the chief priests and poets of Tara who are trying to ascertain why the king is entitled to so much land. Fintan reminds them that they have merely forgotten, reinforcing his status as the figure representing the community's shared mythical and wisdom heritage.
It is Fintan's transformation into a hawk that inspired the novel The Cry of the Sebac (click here for link to Amazon Kindle book). In the book, a boy meets a talking hawk, and is encouraged to undertake a fascinating journey into myth and landscape, where he meets many of the important figures of Irish mythology and legend. This is preparation for a greater destiny. I will say no more, for fear of spoiling it for you.
The overarching theme of Fintan and the hawk is, I think, related to the importance of a community or nation's mythical heritage, the wisdom that emerges from same, and the continuation, propagation and preservation of that wisdom heritage by the poets, seers, shamans, priests or druids of that community.
If you are interested in reading more about Irish myth and its meaning, you might be interested in purchasing signed copies of my books from my secure online store:
Enter the ‘Ancient Sites’ section of this blog for a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of the megalithic and sacred sites of Ireland. Find out all about the Stone Age and prehistoric ruins and learn more about the possible functions and alignments of these sites. Visit the great temples of Brú na Bóinne, the Hill of Tara, the ancient cairns of Loughcrew among many others.
Explore the ancient myths, legends and folklore of Ireland and their meaning. Read the epic Táin Bó Cuailnge, or the place-name myths in the Dindshenchas. Learn about how the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians came to Ireland and how the early texts describe various invasions of prehistoric Éire. Hear about Fionn and the Fianna, and discover how some myths might contain information about astronomy and the stars.
There is no doubt that the ancient megalith builders had a substantial knowledge of the movements of the sun, moon, planets and stars through the heavens. Learn more about just how complex and impressive this knowledge was. There is evidence that the people of the Neolithic knew about the 19-year Metonic cycle of the moon, as well as being able to predict eclipses.